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Pace has Quickened

This week's Color Report covers the section from Upper Graveyard Fields (5800') to Caney Fork Overlook (5650') and the pace of change is increasing with the bare coverage line now limited to 5600' or higher. It seems we have another two weeks before bare coverage is no more, with full leaf out at the highest elevations possible by May 24 - 29th time frame.

The weather was not the best during our color chase (Wednesday thunderstorms), resulting in lower quality images and a shortened chase and report. The next two weekends are likely your best opportunities to experience all the phases of spring in one drive, starting with summer greens at the entrances, shifting to only spring colors and bare coverage as you reach the higher elevations.

Wolf Mountain Overlook (5500')

Another thing to mention is the possibility of an Aurora event for our region Friday night into Saturday morning, perhaps the strongest in 20 years. Cloud cover due to NW flow will hinder many of our viewpoints along the Parkway, however the Great Balsams do experience a touch less cloud cover compared to the Plott Balsams during these setups, so with this in mind we recommend Cowee Mountain Overlook and points north along the Parkway to reduce your chance of cloud cover. We recommend following Evan Fisher as he provides updates on cloud cover for our region and tips on how to capture the event on camera. Winds will be strong, gusting to the 30 - 50mph range at times above 5500', so dress accordingly and be safe out there!

Full leaf out can be found at each entrance and summer greens are beginning to take over, with the lime green phase taking till 4200' to fully come into play. You'll need to drive another 500 - 600' higher in elevation to see spring colors mixing into the landscape, with majority spring colors (whites, yellows, pinks, oranges, reds) taking over around 4900'. You'll then notice flowers and leaves giving way to buds around 5200'.

transition line below Little Sam Knob

Get out now if you are a fan of Mountain Azaleas. They are peaking right now along the 5500' elevation line, it is quite the sight to see and stretches for several hundred feet in a few sections; most notably around the Wolf Mountain Overlook area and again after the Devil's Courthouse Tunnel, heading toward Mt Pisgah.

Past 5600' bare coverage takes over and this line can be seen from the Caney Fork Overlook, with the transition line noted somewhere around 4800'.

Jumping over to Graveyard Fields we finally notice color and at this pace it should be fully green within the next two weeks.

We added three new 360° views with this update, one at Upper Graveyard at 5800', a second at Caney Fork Overlook at 5650', and the last one a roadside view of the Mountain Azaleas around 5500'. And don't forget about the new Slider Comparison page!

We'll stop here and circle back next week, focusing on the Richland Balsam Overlook section once again as this becomes the last area with spring colors moving into the middle of May. Enjoy the light show this weekend!


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